Resources & Publications

When There Are Jobs But No Skilled Workers to Fill Them

Feb 08, 2011

By Vickie Choitz

A Feb. 2 article in the Washington Post (Why does Fresno have thousands of job openings and high unemployment) highlights the troubling divergence between jobs and workforce skills. This issue is not unique to Fresno and, if not adequately address, could have long-term repercussions for employers, workers and the nation's economy.

When we entered the recession just over three years ago, we had seen signs of this divergence. A 2008 report by the National Commission on Adult Literacy, Reach Higher, America, indicated that, by one set of measures, more than 88 million adults (compared to a labor force of about 150 million at that time) had at least one major educational barrier-no high school diploma, no college, or English language needs. These findings came as we continued to learn about the growing skill requirements in many jobs. Yet, federal investments in adult education, training, and English language programs were reaching only about 3 million adults a year.

To help address the disconnects between jobs, skills, and workers, we have to rethink our state and federal workforce development systems. We must simultaneously help to ensure that workers can find jobs, but also access training and education when necessary. We need more innovative training that meets workers' needs and is responsive to employers' skill needs. We must make sure training aligns with jobs being created. And we need flexible programs so adults getting training can persist and complete programs. All of this requires much more focus, energy, and investment than we've made thus far. Without such focus, however, we risk Fresno's skills disconnect becoming a national crisis.

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